Monday, June 20, 2011

Putian Summer at Putien.

I have written about Putien Restaurant in Kitchener Road before. And loved the food.

It is one of the places I take visitors to when they come to Singapore...why? Well, the food is characteristically Chinese, but not so common...though Putian is a city in the province of Fujian, the dialect spoken there is Heng Hwa. The cuisine, because of its proxmity to the sea, is lighter than the typical Amoy style Hokkien food we get. I love a khong bak pau and hae chor as much as the next guy, but I also love the lighter, fresher taste offered by Heng Hwa.

So when I received an email invitation from Ann of linea Communications, I gladly took it. Thanks to Ann and Melissa of Putien who were the most gracious hostesses and to Executive Sous Chef Gongba, who attended to us throughout and did the kitchen demonstration.

The welcome drink is a special concoction...dubbed the Summer Quencher, ingredients are aloe vera, cherry tomato and sour plum juice.

Sweet, with a touch of sour. Very refreshing. And as one reaches toward the end of the drink, the chunks of aloe vera presents itself for a nice finish.

They were introducing their summer dishes, which are designed, according to traditional Chinese beliefs can help our bodies beat the heat.

We started by being introduced to some of the ingredients...most intriguing were the bowls of mushrooms/fungi:

From bottom, Rooster Comb Mushroom, white fungus, Yellow Head fungus (not sure about translation from Chinese 黄耳), black fungus and Monkey's Head mushroom.

From these fungi, and the winter melon, the chefs came up with this beautiful dish:

Winter Melon with White Fungus and mushrooms. Interestingly the use of winter melon for the summer menu? Well, Chef Gongba explained that the Winter Melon is actually a summer gourd. The plant produces a fast growing gourd on its vines. So why call it winter melon? Because the gourds are covered with a layer of hair which are white. And when growing in a field where there are thousands of these gourds on the ground, it looks like it had snowed.

I enjoyed this dish a lot. Very light on the palate, but yet, the distinct tastes of the several varieties of Yunan wild fungus and melons are apparent. The fungi and mushrooms are cooked separate from each other and the melon, as they require different techniques and cooking times. And assembled by the chef in the kitchen before serving.

We were next served a dish of organic Momotaro tomato:

The plump, juicy tomatos were from Cameron Highlands but from the Momotaro strain. A light sprinking of powdered sugar helps lift the tartness with a little sweetness. Just perfect.

Stirfried lotus root with prawn is next:

The dish came in a fresh, green lotus leaf. A bit unsuual, and provided a nice green background to the dish. The use of lotus root, selected because of the cooling properties, complemented very well with the prawns. The root providing a crunchy texture with the fresh, soft, almost luscious prawns were nice. Coupled with a touch of Putien's very special Hot Mother (La Ma) chilli sauce...this is superb indeed. Shiok.

A curious dish of small sea snails presented itself next:

Sea snails are a popular snack in Putian during summer...goes well with beer...what can be better? The dish is sauteed with Hua Diao Wine with spring onions, shallots and chilli. The snails were very small, and the shell very thin and almost fragile...the technique to enjoy this little crustacean is to suck with one's tongue, and the meat comes out easily. I won't say this is my favourite, but its not a bad tasting dish.

Next, the braised loofah with homemmade beancurd:

Loofah is a kind of a cucumber...but when freshly picked, it is soft, and tender. The home made tofu is rather interesting. Chef told us that he only uses soy beans and no other agents. Resulting in a tofu which is very stong tasting in soy, and a tinge of bitterness rounds off the tofu. The fragrant seafood sauce is very nice. As were the soft, very tender loofah.

Bamboo shoots are common in Chinese cuisine, but Putien's twist on this popular dish is to use fresh water bamboo...and to only lightly cooked, chilled and served with a sesame dressing.

We were also offered the bamboo clams...

This is interesting. The clams are air flown live from China. And packed in their styrofoam box, they often show their vitality by vigrous squirts of a fountain. These clams are baked in a bed of sea salt. Pry one open, and remove the lip, which may contain sand and other contaminants, and the luscious, rich, almost creamy clams can be enjoyed. The clams tasted a bit like oysters.

As you can spy behind the clams, is a burger like dish...this is the famous Putien shreded pork in a bun:

This must be the Chinese answer to the burger. The bun is light, but with a crisp exterior...encrusted with sesame seeds. The shreded pork is tender, probably stir fried just right...for the maximum juiciness. Delicious.

And the famous Heng Hwa beehoon:

Chef took pains to explain that the bee hoon are hand made in China. And unlike regular bee hoon which is blanched in boiling water before cooking. This bee hoon goes directly into the wok with the sauce ingredients and fried. This is a favourite of mine. The bee hoon, as you can see is thin, almost wiry. And every strand is almost distinct and does not clump together. The fragrance of the sauce, and the masterful mix of other ingredients...prawns, crushed peanuts, and dried seaweed just makes this dish superb.

The chefs in attendance...left is Executive Chef Xial Liangrong and right is Li Gongba.

Overall, excellent tasting session. Well prepared, knowledgable wait staff and of course the very impressive knowledge of the chefs. I will continue to patronise Putien, as I have done for years. Very nice.

#02-18/19 nex
tel: 6634 7833
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